Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wits About Me

Lest any UFF readers think that given my recent travel mishaps I am entirely incompetent, I would like to also share my excellent handling of another minor life setback: The towing of my rental car (mini-van, actually) last weekend.

To transport a gaggle of co-workers to Jersey for the Sweet 16 party, and to make a subsequent trip to Ikea, I rented a mini-van. When I first moved to NYC, not having a car really stressed me out. When I complained about not having a car, experienced New Yorkers assured me that if I wanted to get away for a weekend, I could rent one. (Any car-owner knows that a rental is NOT the same as one's own car, however, I could get past that.)

I soon learned the flaws in the "Just rent one!" plan. For one, car rental places in NYC are almost universally, and inexplicably, closed on Sundays. And none of them have drop-boxes for the key, which means that you have to rent the car for at least 2 days (assuming you pick it up Saturday morning), and it also means that you have to drop it off before work on Monday. Also, car rental places need parking for all those vehicles, and NY real estate ain't cheap, so they're usually located on the outskirts of civilization, and usually there's a bit of a trek to the nearest subway station. The worst thing, however, about renting a car in NYC, is finding parking. I'm fine pulling out of the rental lot and driving around Jersey or Long Island or wherever, but as soon as I get close to my neighbourhood I can feel my breathing get shallower and my heart beat faster and I know my anxiety levels are way up because I'm going to have to find parking, ideally within a 20 block radius of my apartment.

I'm not exaggerating.

In Park Slope, there's usually ample parking on Saturday afternoon/evening, but if you're trying to find something Sunday night, forget it. Accept that you're going to shell out $30 for a garage ($40 if you are trying to park anything bigger than a sedan).

Unless, of course, you're me and DLang last Sunday night.

We drove around a bit, knowing from experience that our odds of finding something were slim to none. We finally drove up Union St. to a garage we've used before, resigned to paying to park the van for a mere 10 hours. Literally a few metres from the garage entrance, however, we spotted a spot! Hallelujah! I pulled in, and DLang got out to read the restricted parking sign: No Parking from 7am-10am.

Hm. We figured we could either spend the $40 for the garage, or risk getting what we estimated would be an $80 ticket.

Obviously we opted for the latter, or this wouldn't make it to the ol' blog (which I should probably just start referring to as The Confessional.)

Monday morning at 8, we schlepped through the residual snow and slush to Union St. to find not a single vehicle parked on the block.


We walked to the subway and devised a plan: I would email DLang the license plate number, and he'd call the fabulous 311 to find out where we could pick up the car. For you non-New Yorkers, 311 is the number you call in NY to answer any question about the city. I'm not kidding. I've called to report a car alarm outside my bedroom window, to find out when to dispose of a box spring (Saturday), and to find out what movie was being filmed in the park across the street. (If you have any ideas for questions to which 311 might not have answers, please leave them in the comments, as I might just propose "Stump 311" as a party game.)

Anyway, I got to work and Googled "car towed NYC" which got me straight to the NYPD's listing of tow pounds. Conveniently, the Brooklyn pound is 1/2 mile from my office. By the time DLang got to work, I'd already pretty much solved the case, and by 12:30pm I'd returned the car (without having to pay an extra day, even) and was back at work after only a 90 minute absence.

The Brooklyn Tow Pound

Dude, Where's My Car?

This little adventure came with a hefty price tag: I paid $185 to get the car out of the pound, and also have a $115 parking ticket with which to contend. In the future, I will try to earn my cred by less costly means.

What a week.

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